Might You Need a Food Intolerance Test?

The number of people who display adverse reactions to some of the edibles they consume has increased steadily during the course of the last half century or so. A relatively small proportion of those affected can identify the cause of their reaction as an allergy to one or more specific substances in their diet. The reactions are a natural response by the body’s immune system to any compound that it identifies as foreign and potentially harmful. In the case of an allergy, however, such compounds are mistakenly identified as harmful and most people would be unaffected by them. The incidence of food intolerance, however, is many times greater, yet a simple test could save sufferers a great deal of unnecessary discomfort.

So how can you recognise that you may have a problem and how do you identify which of these two forms of reactions you may be experiencing? Differentiating between the two is important, as the consequences of failing to identify an allergic reaction could, at some stage, have serious consequences. Firstly, the symptoms of an allergy will tend to occur within a fairly short period of time following the ingestion of a causative substance or allergen. Among the most common allergens are dairy products, nuts, shellfish, and eggs, and all produce symptoms which may include a rash, swollen lips, and breathing difficulties. As with food intolerance, a test may also be used to identify the cause of an allergy.

By contrast, those foodstuffs to which an individual may be merely intolerant to provoke a very different kind of reaction. In this case, it arises in the digestive system, rather than the immune system, and most often it will only become evident quite some time after a meal. In these cases, the symptoms are most commonly the abdominal discomfort and bloating associated with irritable bowel syndrome, but may also sometimes be accompanied by headaches, a cough, and a runny nose, leading some sufferers to the mistaken conclusion that they may be allergic to a particular food. A suitable test will readily distinguish between food intolerance and a genuine food allergy.

As stated earlier, these adverse reactions are on the rise. Given that, in extreme cases, an allergic reaction can be fatal, there has been a tightening of the legislation applied to the food and beverage industry. Producers must conduct stringent analyses of their products and highlight any known allergen that has been detected or whose presence cannot be ruled out in their labels. Restaurants are also obliged to draw attention to the meals prepared from such ingredients.

Since no such legislation exists to protect those with food intolerance, a test will be the best way to identify the source of any possible problem. Often, an affected individual will not even need to refrain from eating the offending food completely, but will find that consuming it in smaller quantities will be sufficient to avoid any discomfort.

In conclusion, if you display any of the symptoms described above, you would be well advised to consult your doctor and, if indicated, he or she will request that you provide a sample for analysis. Testing can include IgE antibodies associated with allergy and IgG antibodies found in intolerant subjects. In South Africa, IEPSA is a supplier of world-class test kits for food intolerance and allergies.

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